In attendance were my loving husband, Ron; two sister-in-laws; one with husband who served in the Air Force in the 70's; one with husband in a grave near the base of the flag just in front of where we stood, who was committed to serve in the Reserves; one of her sons just home from his second tour in the Army, the first being in the Navy like his Grampa; and one nephew with wife and two children.
Also in attendance were memories of my father, Ellis, who patrolled our western and southern borders in the Cavalry on his horse named Rony, during World War II; my cousin who cooked on the front lines in Viet Nam; my father-in-law who served in the Navy; two more nephews recently returned from the Middle East; a niece serving as an Army medical professional; a nephew-in-law who gave his all in the Army; another brother-in-law who also served in the Army; another nephew who served in the Marines; and the many Veterans who come through our doors at work where it's an honor to serve them.
My goodness, have I forgotten anyone? I hope not.
As the ceremony began, people gathered around the tall American flag in the military section. I was compelled to stand with my nephew recently home. I couldn't bear that he stand alone, by himself. I tucked my arm inside of his and held on. I needed him. Together we watched the ceremony.
At one point, an elderly gentleman veteran directly in front of us, standing at attention, holding the flag, tottered a bit when a strong breeze caught it. I wanted to reach out and steady him but knew it was his to do. It was his honor. His determination to stand at attention and support his flag demonstrated it was his honor. I felt his strength, the same strength I imagine him exerting as he fought the enemy, and won, when he was young.
Protocol and order. Somber faces atop bodies at attention. Hats removed and replaced at proper times. Taps played... and tears.
I am surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses whose eyes have seen the atrocities of war, whose ears have been blown out by the unbelievable blasts of bombs, whose minds and hearts come home changed in ways I cannot fathom. I've never heard any veteran willingly chatter on and on about their experience. I imagine their feelings are too deep to even express.
A few of my above people escaped the battlefields, but each one in their faithful duty stood between me and the enemy. Each one contributed to my safety and protection. Each one made their sacrifice. That word seems so small compared to their act. And that doesn't even take into account the spouse, child, brother, sister who released their loved one into service with a heart full of emotion and prayers. The only reference point I have is when my father passed away. I was speechless, my heart in my throat, so full of unutterable sorrow.
Whether it be a family member or a friend, most everyone has been touched by war at sometime in their lives. A "thank you" seems inadequate. They gave their whole selves, how can I thank them enough?
The only thing I can do, I think, is to receive their gift and incorporate into my life the freedom they preserved. Enjoy fully the life I have been given. I can move forward in love and appreciation and value what's truly important, which is family, friends, people. I can pray for this country and it's people, for a country is nothing without it's people, for as long as I am a citizen here.
And I must remember... to never forget.